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19,002 of 19,915 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This box is a GAME CHANGER for on demand content! Amazon knocked it out of the park. Refreshed & UPDATED with Tips!
I am not a casual user of on-demand content and devices. Having tried smart tv's from 3 brands, smart dvd/bluray players, Apple TV, WDTV, HTPC, Chromecast and too many other competing products to mention--for streaming content, before this box you really had two options (for a simple to use box that doesn't require additional items or tweaking):

First is Apple...
Published 7 months ago by William Hardin

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3,472 of 3,905 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fire TV vs. Everything Else Streaming and Gaming
Customer Video Review     Length:: 0:45 Mins
NOTE ON VIDEO:

I've made this to illustrate the current works of Fire TV's voice search feature. It appears to be limited to Amazon content, at least for videos. I believe that they do include a third party service if you search for music.

I am searching for House of Cards, Season 2, a Netflix original. I am a Netflix...
Published 7 months ago by A. Dent


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19,002 of 19,915 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This box is a GAME CHANGER for on demand content! Amazon knocked it out of the park. Refreshed & UPDATED with Tips!, April 3, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
I am not a casual user of on-demand content and devices. Having tried smart tv's from 3 brands, smart dvd/bluray players, Apple TV, WDTV, HTPC, Chromecast and too many other competing products to mention--for streaming content, before this box you really had two options (for a simple to use box that doesn't require additional items or tweaking):

First is Apple TV which is easy to use (interface) but Apple limits the content you can get greatly (including no Prime Streaming built in) and it lacks a lot in features as well and is slow. The reason for selecting Apple TV is if you have other apple products that unlock features (like Amazon's content).

The second option you could consider was Roku--which really means a Roku 3 box since it is heads and tails better than past Roku boxes in terms of remote and speed. Now Roku stands out with the most content and the most features of any box with the Roku 3. It is for that reason you will see me address the Roku 3 so often in this review.

I have added quick summaries of other options to make sure everyone knows about the other options out there.

WDTV: Are great for streaming your own content but not very user friendly.

Chromecast: Is very cheap at $35 but requires other items to use (no remote included!), is limited to 16 channels according to their own site with other content broadcast via Chrome's browser not at the same quality level. This does allow you to browse the internet on your tv and is amazing for the cost but is more of a niche market than FireTV/Roku/Apple TV. But if you can live with the short comings, it is worth a look at 1/3 the price of these devices.

Smart TVs: Most of these are FINE for occasional use but not nearly as pleasant to use daily like separate boxes. Normally you pay $150-$400+ extra for features that are found in these $100 boxes. I have not found a smart tv that is decent and is also a good value for what you are getting. The advantage is that you can use your TV remote to access the content. (and that is about it!)

HTPC: These are desktop computers or Mac Minis or Android Sticks that you load software on to stream video to your TV. These can add content that no normal streaming box can access, without giving up quality but they are only recommended for something comfortable with technology that doesn't mind fixing the issues that come up from time to time.

Video Game Consoles: Xbox/Playstations can access some of the content that streaming boxes do and have plenty of power to deliver the streams. The downside is the cost (unless you already have one) and the interfaces. These consoles are not designed to stream video exclusively so the interfaces are decent but can be clunky.

(You can use other options but frankly they aren't worth the hassle for the amount of hair pulling you would do.)

Now this Amazon product has changed everything. It might not be the box for you...but honestly there is a good chance that it SHOULD BE. This is a brand new category for Amazon and they got a lot right, but there are a few shortcomings (at least at launch) as well so read all of this to see what those are.

Amazon's Fire TV box

Pros:

+ Nothing else is this fast. While Roku 3 impressed the world, this raises the bar dramatically. With a quad core processor and 4 times the memory of any other streaming product, it speeds through menus, boots quicker, starts videos quicker and honestly has the muscle to not struggle with higher end resolutions and surround sound like other boxes can do at times. The best way I can explain it, you will have extra hours at the end of the year because this box is THAT much faster.

+ Voice search is amazing. It really works. Less using a four directional keypad to enter in titles is a real time saver and makes you wonder why this wasn't done before but it is only for Amazon content and VEVO (music videos) (at least for now). You can not use the voice search with Netflix for example.

+ Ready for gaming, well at least once you spend another $40. The $40 gaming controller feels a bit pricy for this type of gaming and really should be $25 or less in my opinion. That being said, this box has real games you would actually want to play instead of a VERY limited selection on Roku 3 but it is not a "REAL" console at $100 and honestly shouldn't be compared to them.

+ Better image quality? I know you are thinking I am imagining things or have changed my setup but both myself and my wife have noticed that generally (in different apps) the video is slightly sharper and clearer. We are using the exact same tv, settings, even the same HDMI cable that we used with the Roku 3 until we switched it for the Fire TV box. We have noticed that especially on poor quality feeds that the image quality is noticeably better than under the same feeds with Roku 3. Now I don't know if there is better graphic chips or if the bigger processor can do more tweaking while streaming but it seems to be something. As image quality is a huge deal for most folks (and normally us streamers have to suffer with "decent" quality) this is certainly worth noting. So far we have noticed this under Netflix, VEVO and Plex.

Cons:

- It lacks soul. Yes, soul. The Fire TV box and remote are built like a dvd player or appliance--cold, fast, efficient. Unlike Roku 3 where the box seems to have a bit of the personally of TiVo--it feels warmer, more inviting. Everything about this box is business like, including the interface and the lack of options to change it.

- The interface is more than merely "cold". It is simply less flashy/pretty than the Roku 3 interface. While fast, I am less tempted to wander around like I do on Roku 3. It seems like they are being pretty dependent on the voice search function which is great but it leaves you missing out on the random items you find along the way with the Roku 3 interface. I will update this more upon extended use.

- The voice search only works for Amazon's own content (and VEVO) and not most 3rd party channels like Netflix.

- The remote is not ready for gaming use, compared to the Roku 3 remote with gaming buttons when you turn the remote sideways and more sensors for detecting movements/motion.

- Another feature about the remote I don't care for is the use of Bluetooth instead of WIFI. Roku used to use Bluetooth on their former high end box but instead replaced it with wifi to increase battery life and to add the headphone jack in the remote. It will likely take a few weeks of use to report battery life but this has me concerned.

- No headphone jack function like Roku 3. Now to be honest, if you use that on the Roku 3 it can be a battery drain but it is a cool feature.

- Missing some popular channels at launch. There is no HBO-Go, no M-Go and no Vudu. In addition, the channel count is much less than Roku's at launch.

- Channels operate differently on FireTV than the do on Roku 3. See my notes below for more information.

Overall:

This Fire TV box took so much from other company's products with only a few missing items. They focused on delivering smooth, fast performance with less frills than Roku 3 for the same price. While there are missing channels and features, the biggest failure for me PERSONALLY is the cost of the gaming controller. Without it, this box isn't ready for gaming but adding 40% more for the ability to try out the functionality seems pretty steep. Had Amazon included it with every Fire TV box, they would have sold a lot more games and had everyone calling the Roku 3 a poor value.

If you do not have any streaming box yet, I would HIGHLY recommend this box over every other product on the market right now. I don't make this endorsement lightly. I currently own 3 Roku 3 boxes because I liked them so much, until I used this Fire TV box. This box means Roku will have to really work on improving their product for Roku 4 or they will lose the high end market. (An update, my wife officially asked to replace the Roku 3 boxes with more Fire TV boxes tonight. Yes, these things are that good folks!)

If you have a Roku 3 box, really look at the missing channels and features--are they something you could give up for faster performance? (Also look at my notes on the features of the various common apps.) If the answer is yes, then grab one of these and try it. If no, wait to see if Amazon adds features/channels. At the very least, consider an Fire TV box for your next box.

I do not personally recommend Apple TV as they are still too slow and lack too many features and functions. Apple keeps promising something amazing but delivering minor improvements.

If you are on a budget and have an Android based tablet, consider Chromecast. It is a good value for the price but you do give up features and content to save on the cost compared to Roku 3 & Fire TV.

I am giving this box a 4.8 rating, compared to a 4.2 for Roku 3.

I will update this review regularly for a while, so check back for more information! Also if you have questions or comments, please feel free to ask them in the comments section. Either myself or other helpful people will do our best to respond to them.

UPDATE 1:

Based on comments, I wanted to add a few points.

Regarding comments that I received the item free or are paid by Amazon to write this review, etc.

I paid the full list price and local sales tax for this box (grrr). Nothing was provided to me nor was I paid anything to write about this device. I do not work for Amazon, I own my own company. For this item, I am just a customer. In fact, I didn't expect to even purchase a Fire TV prior to it being announced because I figured it would only deal with Amazon's own content which I feel is much weaker than Netflix. In fact, I have talked two different family members into getting Netflix over Amazon's Prime Streaming service in the past month alone.

HBO Go:
This has been repeated over and over in the comments but HBO Go support for me is not something I am interested in as I do not have cable service anymore nor do I feel that HBO is a better value than Netflix. I would not go without Netflix support at all but I personally think HBO Go is more niche for many people and honestly I bet this device will get that channel before too long. Clearly the HBO Go people seem to be pushing the issue but I know 11 streaming box users and none use HBO Go so while I noted the missing feature above, people still seem to want to beat me up over it.

UPDATE 2:

CHANNELS:
It needs to be said that some channels require cable/satellite subscriptions (to those channels) like HBO Go (not currently on this box), Showtime, ESPN, etc. Even if you have HBO, it does not mean that your provider allows the HBO Go, so look into that before purchasing any box with that in mind. I do like the Bloomberg TV (not available on Roku 3) App which actually features a LIVE TV feature.

NETFLIX APP: Is the "older" style with the tall covers (like VHS boxes) instead of the "new" Netflix interface that uses short wide covers (like on Roku 3). Netflix has said they are moving everything to the new software but the Fire TV box doesn't have it yet. That makes comparing performance harder from Roku 3 to Fire TV. On my ISP provider Comcast (Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast so they have faster streams to customers) I do not see a HUGE improvement in performance in buffing like you see on other channels. What it does seem to do is start in better quality and/or speed the improvement in quality. My guess is that the Netflix app needs to be tweaked to maximize the performance of this hardware. One positive with the FireTV app is that it plays the entire TV episode BEFORE switching to a small window with the countdown starting for the next episode. I can't tell you how many times I had to click, click, click and click just to see the end of an episode under Roku 3.

Also, the FireTV Netflix app has two features that were removed from the updated Roku app. Before going into a TV show, FireTV tells you how many total episodes that Netflix has. On the Roku it shows you the number of seasons instead. I personally prefer the number of episodes but clearly that is a personal preference. Another point worth mentioning is that the FireTV Netflix App shows you how many items you have in your list and what item number you are on. That information is missing from the Roku 3 Netflix app.

AMAZON PRIME CONTENT: Does not loop--a "feature" they should add (and likely will). This means once you get to the end, it just stops instead of keeping going.

VOICE SEARCH:
Voice search DOES cover some 3rd party content, despite everyone reporting it works on Amazon's content only. I have repeated confirmed it supports the VEVO app and will find music videos in that app. That may mean that other 3rd party apps are covered as well, or certainly might be able to be in the future. If you search for something that has PRIME content and VEVO content, it will default to the option with the most options. To switch to the other, simply arrow up and either left or right to see the music videos or PRIME search results.

OPTICAL OUT:
I noticed this box featured an optical out port but normally run everything through my LG TV (via HDMI) and then use an optical out to my receiver (so I never have to change the receiver's settings) so I wasn't excited about this addition to the Fire TV box over my Roku 3 boxes. I stand corrected. I decided to run my audio via the optical cable into the receiver directly from this Fire TV box (something that I can not do with Roku 3) and it fixed all random lip-sync issues I have from time to time on the Roku 3 box (and the same with the HDMI output on this box).

Now I know this is not a typical setup for many people but I do know that tons of people have lip-sync issues with HDMI connections so being able to bypass the HDMI minefield is much more important than I expected.

VEVO APP:
This app works better than the Roku 3 app performance wise...one quick example is that some content simply fails on the Roku 3 app--try watching Britney Spears's Work B**CH (don't make fun of me!). Vevo can play this video fine on YouTube and on the Fire TV app but struggles on Roku 3's app. SOME of VEVO's content is also available via VOICE SEARCH too.

REMOTE:
I do miss the jump back button on the remote that Roku 3 features. It is a tiny thing but it once you are used to jumping back to see that painting in the background or catch that line that you didn't hear because the phone rang, or someone was talking, you feel lost without it. UPDATE! They did include this feature but hid it abit. You simply double click the reward button to skip back. I haven't seen anyone else mention this tip so you saw it here first people!

I do like that the "enter" button is back in the center of the directional keys. This is the way it used to be on Roku boxes before someone at Roku decided to move it below the directional keys, so you have to move your thumb oddly to press it.

MULTITASKING:
What multitasking you ask? Since you haven't seen this advertised or mentioned elsewhere, I can understand your confusion but try this: Load a Pandora stream...then click on the HOME button and browse for movies/tv you want to watch. As long as you are in the Home/Amazon Prime content, you can browse WHILE Pandora continues playing. Now Pandora dies when you enter another APP like Netflix but it shows you that Multitasking is built into the operating system and may be utilized in future features. (Again, this TIP is only found here!)

Another update: This tip also works when browsing PLEX content before you play something. So even when utilizing a 3rd party app, it can keep going. When it changes to a new song, a small window pops up on the lower right hand side of the screen to tell you know the new song title and artist.

PLEX APP:
Compared to the Roku app, PLEX for FireTV is totally different. There are some cool features, like the backgrounds, the screensaver using your photos and the MUCH faster menuing (night and day from Roku 3) but I do miss the channels not requiring a couple clicks to switch to ONLINE to see. I do miss that clicking the play button doesn't play a clip, instead you select it (click) and then play it (second click).

SCREENSAVER:
FireTV has a screensaver that is honestly pretty cool in my opinion. I am not saying you can't do this with other boxes but no other box comes set up to display random photos (and includes a decent amount of beautiful photos as well.) This functionality covers 3rd party apps like Netflix and Plex too so you have a seamless slideshow no matter what you are using when it starts. This is the sort of thing you see on PCs not streaming boxes and it is a nice touch.

GAME CHANGING:
Many commenters have argued that this device is not gaming changing and many have rating my review not helpful because of that title.

I said "Nothing else is this fast" to which one commenter said, "Nobody cares how fast an streaming box is. That's not a game changer"

Actually using it you will see what I mean. This is the first time a company has put so much $$ into creating a very solidly made hardware device. Like a fast computer (which this basically is), it will depend on software that is written for it to fully show off its abilities.

When AMD created their first processor that competed directly with Intel's higher end processors, it was a game changer, correct?, because it changed the landscape of personal computers forever, lowered pricing, etc.

People will look back in 5 years at this moment and say Amazon's FireTV changed how consumer streaming video boxes were made (instead of barely enough processing power to stream, they became able to compete with HTPCs and Mac Minis). This is the beginning of a new generation of streaming boxes.

I said "Voice search is amazing." and they said "Not unique, by any means. My xbox, ps3, tablets, all have this, and all work amazingly."

Find one person who owns this that doesn't say this voice search works better than anything from Google, Apple or Microsoft. The fact that little old Amazon could out deliver those tech giants is SHOCKING. The fact this works via a tiny remote makes it very easy to get use to. There is no other product in this price range that does this and no other streaming box even offers it at any cost.

I said "Ready for gaming, well at least once you spend another $40" to which they said: "And stick to basic android games. No thanks. I have a REAL console (or a couple of them) that can play REAL games..."

This isn't meant to compete with more expensive game consoles. It is meant to bring gaming to streaming boxes, just like tablets/cellphones have brought gaming to millions. They have not replaced gaming consoles (and likely never will) just like this box will not have you ditch your gaming console either but instead it opens you up to tons of games you CAN'T play on that same console. Just imagine all the cheap under $5/free games you can enjoy on your FireTV box. As I said above in my main review, I think Amazon really should have thrown in the controller to really get peopling playing the games but I can understand why they needed to limit their losses.

Again, this is a best in class hardware device with real gaming and the best voice search on any tech device (and the only one for a streaming video box). Every future streaming box will be measured against this one. Tell me how that isn't game changing?

Please understand that everyone has different priorities and requirements so no one box is going to be perfect for everyone. I am attempting to do my best to address most of the many options and provide a decently balanced opinion of them.

Hopefully this review has been helpful to you. If so, please let me know by clicking the button below. Remember you don't have to agree with everything I said to think it was helpful! ;)
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6,796 of 7,120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A review from a non-techie, April 7, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
I'm your typical middle-aged woman - I don't game, and I'm not super tech-savvy by any means....so take this review for what it is. The Fire TV was easy to install and I'm loving all the features, free movies, music and simple interface - this thing even has a screen saver that comes on when you're listening to music! We've always just had our Comcast cable service without DVR and occasionally used Comcast OnDemand to watch/rent movies - but I'll never watch from Comcast again. The voice recognition software is amazing and brought me to exactly what I was looking for every single time I searched. It's just so easy to find what you're looking for (unlike Comcast), and since I'm an Amazon Prime member most of what I want to view is free - oh and for the new release movies the cost to "rent" from Amazon is on average cheaper than Comcast OnDemand by a ~$1 or more. So happy with this purchase!
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5,200 of 5,532 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works great with one critical flaw. (significantly improved), April 3, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
Having received my Fire TV today, I've been trying it out for the past couple of hours.

Setup was a no brainer. It required an update immediately so it did take about 15 minutes to have it in action but the process was very simple.

The image quality (movies and games) is excellent. I've tried several movies from Amazon Prime and they look and sound nearly Blu Ray quality as far as I can tell.

Navigation is very straightforward and it's generally easy to find anything you're looking for. Installation of games and apps goes very smoothly and generally pretty quickly.

The remote works very well. I haven't played with the voice search feature much yet, but when I have tried it, it worked well. The buttons on the remote are well thought out and I prefer it to the Apple TV remote.

I only have one gripe. As far as I can tell, there's no way to limit the list of movies and tv shows to what is available for Amazon Prime members. This makes it very inconvenient to find things that are free to watch. There are some categories that are limited to Prime (Most Popular on Prime, For Kids on Prime) I want to be able to just see what's available for Prime or at least be able to see by category what's available for Prime. I'm sure this isn't an oversight. I suspect Amazon wants to force us to look at everything and be tempted to buy/rent things but if they really want to compete with Netflix, they'll understand that we pay for our Prime membership to be able to watch free movies conveniently. A workaround is to do your searching on the web and then search specifically on the device.

Perhaps I just haven't found the way to search for Prime available content. I hope that's the case or I will really be disappointed.

Update 7/21/2014:

The latest software upgrade as significantly improved the device for Amazon Prime members - addressing most of my original complaints.

Now that there is an entire section dedicated to Prime content, it is much easier to find things without having to wade through pay to view content. I wouldn't mind seeing more 'categories' to search through, but don't want to diminish the improvement.

It's still not possible to search and return only Prime content. I think it should be possible to tell the device (when you search) that you only want returns from what is available for free to Prime members.

The new 'Music' option looks intriguing but seems to have no purpose at this point. Not sure why it was added, but I hope it grows into a useful feature given the new Prime Music package.

I would also like to see some sort of DLNA feature added. As one who rips all content that I buy (blu rays, dvds, cds) to a computer on my Network, I would very much like to be able to stream this material to the FireTV. Adding support for a connected USB device is not a solution for me. I have no intention of keeping two copies of all this material.
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An Amazon.com official commented on the review belowSee comments
3,777 of 4,098 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it Amazon...But this is IMPORTANT, April 6, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
It seems to work fine so far (2 Days with it). What I don't like is how Amazon has made it so the"Prime" content is mixed with the "For Pay" content, with no easy way to just see what is ONLY "Prime" content. This is obviously made to divert you into buying more non Prime content...
Amazon, please give us a CLEAR way to view "Prime Only" if that's what we want. I know we can voice search for anything... and that's great, but sometimes we just want to "Go Fishing" and would like to fish in the "Prime" pond only. This is a pretty big deal when you compare this to competing (Think ROKU) products that let you do just that.
Hard to believe your competition does a better job with presenting your own content than you do. Maybe an update in the near future will "Fix" this.
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stem
An Amazon.com official commented on this review(What's this?)
Posted on Jul 30, 2014 8:24:11 PM PDT
Hi Dallas, thank you for sharing your feedback. We wanted to let you know that we made it easier to find your favorite Prime content with the click of your remote. You can now browse many more Prime-only categories, including Top Prime TV, Top Prime Movies, Prime TV for Kids, Prime Movies for Kids, Prime TV by Genre, and Prime Movies by Genre.
 
 

218 of 240 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Message to Time Warner Cable: Cutting the Cord and setting it on Fire!, April 10, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
Edit: July 2014

The Fire TV boX has gotten even better for me. On of the things I really wanted was the ability to stream my music. Amazon has added a feature where you can stream you music the sits on the amazon cloud drive. Since I have most of my music uploaded onto the amazon cloud, this is a HUGE benefit for me since now I can stream my music directly without having my computer tethered or via PLEX, DLNA etc. since I love classical music, I now also have access to a huge classical music library through prime. This makss the device even more useful to me than before.

---------------

So when I moved into my house last year, I made the obligatory call to TWC for internet and cable TV. The "bundled me" into a 200 dollar per month bill which includes 30 Mbs internet (in theory -- in reality, I never see that), telephone (which I don't use because I have Verizon home phone connect, and TV with whole house DVR, all the premium channels (which I never watch), HDTV etc.

After losing my job and having Time Warner get extremely nasty because I chose to spend what 200 bucks I had left on food and gas rather than paying them, AND the fact that they have THE WORST SERVICE (I had to swap out my box and waited in line for over an hour just to swap it out and then when the new box didn't work, wait yet another hour in line to get a 3rd box), I have decided NO MORE TWC.

Amazon Fire TV is the corner stone of my plan to cut the cord. I've only had it for awhile tonight but I am so far blown away. The voice recognition works flawlessly (ok -- 1400 reviewers here... raise your hand if your first search term was "Porn" -- yeah, I'm immature) Regardless of what inappropriate word or attempts to baffle the system my teenage son and I threw at it, it recognized EVERYTHING (with the exception of his Latin -- ok, Amazon fire doesn't recognize Latin ... but neither do I!)

Went to the YouTube app because that is a part of my plan to ditch TWC -- could I play shows that were on YouTube that I currently watch via cable. Check. Paired with my computer (a mac), I just searched for the video that I want, hit play on the computer and it automatically is displayed on my TV.

I've only had it unboxed for 1 hour so haven't tried Netflix or Hulu etc yet but one of the key activities I do a lot of is watching VOD from Amazon and it is SOOOOO much easier to do it using this device that via my BluRay player. Picture quality (even of standard def YouTube videos is nearly as good as cable).

The next step of my plan to ditch TWC is getting Fiber Optic DSL installed. Once that has occurred, I will be going from a 200 dollar per month monopoly to 55 bucks per month plus whatever I choose to spend on renting movies etc on demand. AND, I never have to wait in line for hours to swap out hardware that I'm "renting" from the cable company...

So for half the cost of 1 months worth of Time Warner, I'm going to be able to preserve what little is left of my sanity (which isn't much, given that I tried testing this out with "bad words" like a kindergartener) and the most fun I have had in awhile is listening to the cable customer service rep spend nearly an hour in trying to talk me out of not leaving (HIM: "what if we gave you everything you have now for 160? Then would you stay?" ME: "No... if you could provide the same level of service for 40 bucks less than you have been for the last year, why didn't you just do it then rather than making me pay over 40 bucks a month more than I needed to?" HIM: "What if I bumped up your internet bandwidth to the next tier for free?" ME: "Because I'm not even getting the advertised speed as it is")

Sorry, TWC -- you are no longer a monopoly. There is another game in town. Thank you Amazon for giving me that ability to cut the cord!

p.s. (BTW, based on my little "Porn" experience, I will DEFINITELY be setting up the parental controls!!)

[NCJAR]
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3,472 of 3,905 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fire TV vs. Everything Else Streaming and Gaming, April 3, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
Length:: 0:45 Mins

NOTE ON VIDEO:

I've made this to illustrate the current works of Fire TV's voice search feature. It appears to be limited to Amazon content, at least for videos. I believe that they do include a third party service if you search for music.

I am searching for House of Cards, Season 2, a Netflix original. I am a Netflix subscriber so I would expect the Netflix listing to be displayed but Fire TV only returns the show's Season 1 available for purchase at Amazon and does does not list Netflix at all. As a Netflix subscriber, I could watch both seasons 1 and 2 for free but, according to Fire TV's search, Season 2 doesn't exist and I'd have to pay $2.99 per episode if I wanted to watch Season 1.

See how Roku's search (second half of video) correctly shows that Season 1 is available from Netflix, Amazon, MGo and Vudu and that I can gety get Season 2 from Netflix. It's also telling me (checkmarks) that I subscribe to 3 of the 4 services listed.

It's up to everyone to weigh Amazon's faster and more convenient voice search feature that returns Amazon-only content vs. Roku's ability to find content across the channels/services it carries.

_________________________________________________________________

REVIEW BEGINS HERE:

As a current/former owner and user of streamers such as Roku 3, Roku Stick and Google's Chromecast and also streaming/gaming platforms such as PS3/PS4 and Xbox 360/One, I believe I can do a fair assessment on what Amazon's Fire streamer is about and how it compares with the alternatives. I rely on reviews to help me make informed and rational purchase decisions and, hopefully, my assessment of Amazon's Fire TV may help others decide whether this is what they need or want.

BROAD ASSESSMENT

The Fire TV will have to find its place in a pretty crowded marketplace. From what I've experienced so far, due to its tight integration with the Fire HDX tablets and Amazon's own Instant Video service in search it should be a great pick for anyone who owns the Amazon tablet and already subscribes to Amazon's Prime. Its ability to play games and the ease of downloading them should also appeal to non-hard-core gamers. For everybody else, depending on one's specific needs and expectations, the Fire TV may or may not be the 'right' streamer to buy.

As one who purchased Amazon's original Kindle Fire on day one and went through several generations of Amazon's Kindle reader I expect that Amazon's streamer will also evolve or grow overtime. Amazon will listen to 'us' and the next generation streamer will be a much more interesting, 'new and improved', more capable and better tuned to our needs and wants. Until then, I would say that the current Fire TV is a competent, Amazon-content-biased (through search) streamer with gaming capabilities, lacking some in content and showing some innovation on search (offset by its currently favoring Amazon's service) and the user interface in general. Parental controls and the games could make it a favorite streamer if young children are also watching. If all you want is streaming and don't care about casual gaming you may feel that you are paying for capabilities that you don't need.

CONTENT

The Fire TV offers most but not all mainstream services and I suspect it covers what most of us will ever want to access and I am sure that more services will be added in time. However, at this time Amazon's selection pales when compared to Roku's 1000+ wildly diverse channels but the Rokus have been around for a while. All mainstream services now on Fire TV are also available on Roku, PS3/4, Xbox 360/One and many on Google's Chromecast.

Fire TV attempts to be a little different when it comes to accessing content, allowing for voice search but results are currently returned mostly from Amazon's Instant Video. By comparison, Rokus offer text based cross-service search with results returned from most 'big' providers. Amazon's attempt to predict and preload what we are most likely to watch will have to be assessed over a longer period of time so, time will tell.

The soon to be implemented parental controls should differentiate and distinguish Amazon's product from the competition once they are implemented.

INNOVATION

Amazon's great innovative, revolutionary, disruptive device was the Kindle reader and the enhanced Kindle Paperwhite. I suspect that thousands of acres of trees are still known as 'forests' instead of 'recyclable material' these days because of the Kindle. Amazon's Fire tablets are nice but they are... tablets. The Fire TV streamer/gaming device falls probably under 'okay' or 'interesting' streamers and 'not too bad' gaming platforms.

The quad-core CPU is also nice but, whether I'm streaming on a significantly more powerful PS4 or a tiny one-core CPU Chromecast, the video/audio quality seems to be comparable and practically indistinguishable. I assume that the reason for a more powerful CPU is the game-playing part.

The lack of large permanent storage (HDD) implies that, as a gaming platform, the Fire TV will allow for mostly small to medium-size games with a lot of cloud interaction and storage. Again, a feature that may not be suitable for those whose ISPs charge by the Megabyte or impose a monthly download quota on their customers.

Game playing on the Fire TV works but those used with big console's lag-free controllers that 'rumble', talk back and sense motion may not view the Fire TV as a serious gaming platform.

I would say that Amazon's streamer is solidly in the mainstream as far as innovation. It's a quality product but not a revolutionary one and that's still Okay.

VALUE

There's very little that Amazon's Fire TV does that other platforms don't do.

- The PS3/4 and the Xbox 360/One are vastly superior gaming platforms and equally good streamers and multimedia machines. Only they are much larger physically and cost significantly more.
- The Chromecast and the Rokus are a lot more innovative and allow for a lot more flexibility and integrate nicely with tablets and PCs and allow for streaming personal content without being limited to a specific brand or model of tablet. They are also somewhat more difficult to setup.
- Small streamers such as the Roku Stick and the Chromecast are very portable as they fit into one's shirt pocket. Amazon's Fire TV could be carried around at least in theory but it's not as easy to move around.
- Roku is still the leader of 'content' but Amazon's selection should cover what most of us want to watch most of the time.
- The Fire TV costs a lot more than a Roku or a Chromecast but, even if a gaming controller is added, is still less than a PS3 or an Xbox 360
- Voice search as implemented on Fire TV at the time I am writing this (restricted to Amazon and Vevo) is in effect hiding content from other services, potentially costing you money if one show is available to purchase or rent at Amazon but it may be also carried by another service you subscribe to as a 'free' stream.

WHO NEEDS IT?

Anyone who already has one or more Roku, Chromecast or Xbox, Playstation in their homes probably don't need one at this time. Unless they are tightly integrated into Amazon's ecosystem or are cable cutters who wish some tighter controls over what their kids are watching.

Those who are looking for their first streamer should consider

- Fire TV's ease of use (beats the Chromecast but it's probably on par with Roku and the Xbox/Playstations)
- Amazon's great user support
- Roku's enormous channels selection
- Playstation and Xbox being clearly superior gaming platforms (if you don't mind paying up to $60 for newly released games)
- Amazon's attempt to keep their users confined to Amazon's own hardware platforms and content streams vs. Roku's and Chromecast relative openness
- Fire TV's split gaming/streaming personality (Jack of 2 trades) vs. Roku's and Chromecast focus on streaming
- Price, of course

It's not an easy decision to make. I would be very happy with the Fire TV if it was the first streamer device in the house. With so many stream-capable and game-playing boxes/sticks already operating and doing well, I like Amazon's Fire TV for being a well designed, capable streamer with some nice extra capabilities but I also like and I've been using the Rokus for their huge number of channels and portability and great interface and the Chromecast for allowing me to easily send whatever is in my Chrome browser to the TV. I hope that Amazon's search will soon expand to cover non-Amazon services or it won't be a useful tool. I may not have the the Fire TV attached to the big TV in the living room but our daughter who happens to be a faithful Kindle and Amazon Prime user asked for it in her room.
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154 of 169 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best TV Streaming Box for Everyone - From Grandma to Your Computer Science Professor, May 15, 2014
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
After having the FireTV for about a month now, I can confidently recommend this product for most people. Versus the current generation Apple TV, ChromeCast and Roku offerings, the FireTV is the best value due to it's access to a wide variety of content, build quality and advanced features. It's a device I have recommended to my (almost-elderly) parents & my (geeky) friends.

Best things about the FireTV:
- It is fast - unlike the Roku it does not lag and feels like a high quality product
- Has Amazon Prime Video access- if you have prime membership, this is the best accessory you can buy. Lots of great content from Comedy Central and newer movies versus Netflix.
- An AppStore with apps & games you actually want - Plex & Showtime AnyTime are the big difference makers IMO.
- If you have local video files on your network, Plex is the way to go.
- Voice search

Worst things about the FireTV (which really aren't that bad):
- Annoying/long intro video upon the first time you boot up
- Larger power adapter versus Apple TV (Yes the little things count)
- No HBOGO until late 2014 - Going to be a problem from the folks looking for their Game of Thrones fix this spring**
- No chromecast/airplay like feature unless you have an amazon tablet**

If you don't need HBOGO right now and don't have a bunch of apple products, stop reading this right now and buy this device. You won't regret it.

** See below for ways around this

If you are an advanced user and/or are on the fence this next section is for you.

Before the FireTV, I had 3 Apple Tv 2's in my house that I used to access HBOGO, Hulu+, Netflix & my local media through the infuse application. I had tried Roku's, ChromeCast and other media boxes/home theater pc's and the Apple TV worked best for me. While this has served me well there are obvious drawbacks - lack of 1080p video, limited app selection, no games, etc.... Which led me to trying the FireTV.

Because the FireTV is based on android, android apps can be side loaded on the device and many work fine. The steps below will outline how to get started side loading apps to your FireTV. You may want to have a usb keyboard and mouse handy - you'll need them to get a few things running. Any old usb keyboard/mouse you have lying around should work OK.

(The following links provide the best directions I have come across during my time with the device and have worked for me and should work for you too, but no promises!)

How to sideload applications to the FireTV:

1. The first step in loading android apps is getting ADB set up on your machine can be done by following amazon's directions - developer.amazon.com/appsandservices/solutions/devices/fire-tv/docs/connecting-adb
2. After that, you can go ahead and proceed with side loading applications, also by following amazon's directions - developer.amazon.com/sdk/asb/app-install.html
3. If you aren't comfortable with working with the command line, and are running windows, you can try this great GUI application to automatically side load applications. - forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2736740

Once you are able to send android apps (.apk) files to the FireTV, I recommend:

1. Installing MXPlayer to allow .MKV & .AVI video file playback: sites.google.com/site/mxvpen/download
2. If your network drive/computer doesn't support plex, try using ESFileExplorer to navigate to & play back video files - appsapk.com/es-file-explorer/
3. AirReceiver which mimics the functionality of airplay on an appletv. Please note this only supports unencrypted video feeds. This is a paid app, buy @ play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.softmedia.receiver
4. HBOGO android app can be installed and works rather well. It does require a mouse to navigate.
5. XBMC - If you know what this, you will want it and yes it works. Download via xbmc.org

For the cord cutters out there, I've tried installing Aereo & Slingbox with mixed results. Slingbox for tablets loads and opens ok. Using the mouse I was able to accept the terms & conditions and input my user info. Unfortunately it doesn't load the video stream. Other folks have had success apparently, so it may be just me. Aereo side loads & opens fine but I couldn't sign up for a trial as I am 1 town over from being in their current market area. I will update this review if I get any further with either.

There are many more apps you may want to try so check out this comprehensive list of app functionality from the reddit.com/r/firetv folks - docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uD_6cesLVtHwsoWDE9jlKsV9FtlUbQ3KvDQp6N9gbHE/edit#gid=1337307432

This list includes information on emulators & roms which I didn't include in this review due to their dubious legality.
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416 of 466 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Right Out of The Box, April 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
The Fire TV came well packaged with extremely simple instructions. Plug in the power cable and HDMI cable (not included), put batteries in the remote and that's it. After initial start up there is an update that must be run, but after a few minutes the unit was up and running. Interface is nice looking and easy to use. Voice search worked perfectly...it understood this Kentucky accent instantly. Flipping through the movie choices is super fast (almost too fast since it has skipped a movie a time or two). Netflix is on the home page, but you have to install the app before using it the first time. As I'm typing this review the unit is displaying some beautiful screensaver pictures while I have a movie paused. If you store your photos on Amazon's Cloud you can use your own pictures instead. Picture quality is fantastic and movies start up lightning fast. The only thing I see as a con would be how the Prime movies are marked. The placement of the Prime marker in the upper left of the movie icon is very small and isn't as prominent as it should be making it rather difficult to tell whether it's Prime or a movie you would rent/purchase. I figure in the days and weeks ahead Amazon will be listening to customer suggestions (as they usually do) and more and more updates will be forthcoming making this device even better. For me the Amazon Fire TV is a winner. It will definitely be replacing a Directv receiver I was using.

Update: After one full day of using Amazon's Fire TV I am more than satisfied with my purchase.If you read reviews like I do make sure to skip over the ones that don't have the Amazon Verified Purchase listed under their name or click that their post is unhelpful. These are people who are trying to review a product without even having it in their possession. If you discount those reviews (which make the overall rating less than it should be) you will discover that the majority of people who actually purchased this product are very satisfied.

4-6-14 Update: Added the AmazonBasics Digital Optical Audio Toslink Cable and this has added a whole new dimension to the sound quality of my tv. The sounds are more richer and louder than ever before. I am continually amazed at what this little device is capable of. I really suggest getting the cable I mentioned above to make your Fire TV experience even better!!

4-8-14 Update: Turned on the device today and went to start up Netflix...all I got was a white screen. Turned the unit off and on, but still a white screen. I uninstalled the Netflix app and reinstalled and it worked again. I don't believe it was a problem on the device itself, but rather the app since all of the other apps worked fine.

4-15-14 Update: Had the same white screen issue with Netflix some more. Contacted customer service and reported the issue. He stepped me through the process of going into the settings then the apps. When you come to Netflix instead of uninstalling click on force stop. This fixed the issue. If I have the problem again he asked that I contact them back immediately so that they can contact the developers with the issue. I continue to enjoy this device and have since gotten rid of the Directv receiver I had connected. I can't recommend the Fire TV enough!!

6-25-14 Update: My Fire TV is still going strong and I am completely happy with it. I have found that I watch TV more so on The Fire than my DirecTV. The one thing I haven't checked (but will sometime) is the USB port. I've got to save some movies to my flash drive and see if I can play a saved movie from the drive using the USB port on The Fire. Finding Amazon content is a breeze using the Voice Search and searching through movies or videos using Netflix and others is fine. Yes, it would be great to be able to use the Voice Search with everything else, but it's not a deal breaker for me nor an inconvenience. I would imagine Amazon will eventually include their Voice Search on any third party application as time allows. Even after using it all this time I'm still amazed at the sound and picture quality of such a tiny device. For me Amazon just gets better and better.

8-4-14 Update: I had movies saved to an external hard drive and I plugged it into the USB port on the Amazon Fire, unfortunately, it doesn't work. It basically did nothing. It made no noise like it was trying to access my hard drive nor did it recognize any USB plugged in. Hopefully Amazon will push out an update to fix this at some point and time. It would be a wonderful feature to have. (Hint, Hint...Amazon).
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311 of 349 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Customer Service--I'm Stunned at How Bad it Was, June 24, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
I purchase almost everything with the exception of food from Amazon. I have been a prime member since the inception of the program. Without exception, I have always received EXCELLENT customer service. Until now. I'm having difficulty with my Fire TV connecting to my wifi. Last Saturday I spent approximately 1-˝ hours (maybe 2) troubleshooting with two women techs on the phone. "Mary" (who I was passed to from the first tech because of her expertise) said she thought it wasn't just a problem unique to me and asked me if she could call me back on Sunday after researching the problem. I had no problem with that. No call on Sunday so I called on Monday. Much to my surprise, there was no record of my call attached to my file. The rep was confused as to whether I was talking about fire wire or Fire TV so I was first sent to a different department. Finally, I got through that fire wire was not the same as Fire TV and I was transferred back to digital. We went through the same troubleshooting taking up a lot of my time. I was willing to do it until we were going around in circles and my phone was running out of juice. The gentleman asked me if he could research and call me later in the day. NO CALL. It's Tuesday--still no call.

It really pains me to have to say anything negative about Amazon's Customer Service as it has NEVER BEEN LESS THAN EXCELLENT IN THE PAST. I've noticed I haven't gotten a survey as I usually do after a customer service call. Whoever Amazon has farmed out their digital customer service to will ruin their excellent customer service reputation and they will lose sales because of it. I'm going to wager a bet that there is no record of the 3-4 hours of my time on the phone trying to solve a problem and no record of two promises to call me back. I would have had more respect for these reps if I had received a call saying they were sorry, but they weren't able to come up with a solution for me.

I'm hoping Amazon has kept a record of my past reviews and will review my account and see just how much I've spent over the years as a loyal customer. I'm very disappointed that I had to write this review, and I'm hoping someone who can change things reads this and saves Amazon's reputation. I can't be the only one receiving this kind of treatment. It's obvious that the people who are "techs" for Fire TV are not the same techs that I've dealt with in the past. In fact, I don't think they are even in the same country. What a pity.
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1,748 of 1,987 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No Way to Search or Browse Prime Movies Only = FAIL, April 5, 2014
By 
Geronimo (Scottsdale, AZ) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Amazon Fire TV (Electronics)
I was really looking forward to using what was hyped as an amazing piece of entertainment equipment, but the actual experience falls short.

Pros:
+ User interface and underlying hardware is fast
+ Form factor of the device and remote control is very sleek
+ Plays games fairly well, especially for such a small box
+ Quality of Amazon videos is very good
+ Voice search works quite well
+ The device came pre-configured for my Amazon account. I just plugged it in, updated the software, and away I went

Cons:
- First and foremost, there is STILL no way to search for only free movies on Prime.
- Amazon touts it's 40,000 Prime movies available, but good luck finding them. There is no categorization by genre. You are stuck surfing through dumb lists of movies, or using the search function, which almost never returns any Prime movies
- Voice search works only on Amazon content. You cannot use this to search within Netflix, for example
- The Amazon FireTV box only comes with 8GB of memory for game and app storage, which is completely inadequate. There are games available for download that consume almost 2GB for ONE GAME. Good luck downloading a 1.76GB game, like the racing game featured in the list of top games.

Clearly, Amazon is marketing this device as a way to push its video content. In the help video that automatically plays the first time you use the device, it even offers you a 30 day Prime membership for free to try it out. However, Amazon has no incentive to help you actually search for and find this free content. It's clearly evident in the lack of ability to filter search results on free Prime content only. This is my biggest beef with Amazon, by far. I want a Netflix-like experience, where my Prime content is sorted by genre, and I can search for free movies only. Now, if you want to pay for video rentals, by all means buy this device, because it works really well. If you want it to access your Prime content only, stick to the Roku box you probably already have, because it works just as good.

UPDATE:
I called customer service, and talked to a guy about how I can search for and access my 40,000 Prime movies. Well....YOU CAN'T!!!! According to him, I can only find the Prime movies on the two lists on FireTV that say "Recently added to Prime" and "Top Prime Movies". Those lists are 73 items, and 150 items, respectively. THERE IS NO WAY TO SEARCH OR BROWSE FREE PRIME CONTENT ONLY. The guy I talked to said this was a very common request for people. OF COURSE IT IS. I don't want to pay for video rentals if I just paid for a Prime membership to access free content. AMAZON COMPLETELY FAILED. I AM RETURNING THE FIRE TV.
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Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV by Amazon
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